In today's complex economy, fraud and financial crimes can take many forms. The resources below discuss the more common forms of fraud that we see in the banking industry, as well as offer ways to help protect yourself.
Fraudulent Phone calls
Debit Card Scam
Please be aware of any suspicious phone calls claiming to be from "Santa Barbara Bank' notifying you of a fraud warning on your debit card. Customers have reported receiving a prerecorded message stating, "This is a call from Santa Barbara Bank reporting suspicious activity on your master card, to unlock the credit card please press 1.' Do not follow these instructions or return the call. Please contact us at 805-965-5942 with any suspicious calls.
IRS Scam (from www.irs.gov)
An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
Note that the IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill;
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card;
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone;
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
Obamacare Scam (from www.fraud.com)
Obamacare scams come in a variety of forms. Consumers have complained about con artists contacting them by phone, fax, email and even in person. A common version of the scam involve fraudsters claiming to be from the federal government and directing consumers to purchase insurance cards in order to be eligible for coverage under the ACA. Scammers intimidate consumers to give them their bank account routing numbers or make a direct cash transfer by using words like “it is the law” or “the government now requires it.” Scammers have threatened consumers with jail time if they don’t purchase the fake insurance cards. Another variation of the scam begins with fraudsters claiming to be “navigators" or Medicare officials, tricking consumers into divulging personal information and paying for fictitious insurance plans.
Consumers can better protect themselves from Obamacare scams by following some suggested preventive measures:
- If someone claiming to be with Obamacare or another federal program asks you to wire money, give out your bank account number or load funds onto a prepaid card, it’s a scam.
- If you received an unsolicited phone call, email or fax claiming that you need to purchase a new Medicare card or update your personal information (such as your Social Security number, date of birth or other sensitive information) because “it’s the law,” it's a scam.
- Be careful of phishing sites made to look like official insurance exchange Web sites. They may contain the actual seal of the real insurance exchanges, but likely simply exist to load malware onto your computer or collect your personal information.
- In the event that you inadvertently divulge personal information to an Obamacare fraudster, inform your banks, credit card providers and the three major credit bureaus so that they can be on the lookout for potential identity thieves.
Grandparents Scam (from www.consumerfed.org)
You get a call or an email unexpectedly from someone who claims to be a friend or relative. This often happens to grandparents with the caller claiming to be their grandson or granddaughter. The caller says there’s an emergency and asks you to send money immediately. But beware, there’s a good chance this is an imposter trying to steal your money!
Follow these tips to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:
- How do these scammers choose you to contact? Sometimes they contact people randomly. They also use marketing lists, telephone listings, and information from social networking sites, obituaries and other sources. Sometimes they hack into people’s email accounts and send messages to everyone in their contact list.
- How do these scammers know the names of your friends or relatives? In some cases they don’t. For instance, the scammer may say “Hi grandma,” hoping that you actually have a grandson. If you ask, “David, is that you?” the scammer will say “Yes!” Often these crooks will call in the middle of the night and take advantage of the fact that you may not be awake enough to ask more questions and you may not want to disturb other people by calling them to confirm the information. Sometimes the scammers do know the names of your friends or relatives. They can get that information from a variety of sources. Your relatives may be mentioned in an obituary or on a social networking site. Your email contact list may contain the names of friends and relatives.
- What do these scammers usually say? They might say something like, “I’m in Canada and I’m trying to get home but my car broke down and I need money right away to get it fixed.” Or they may claim to have been mugged, or been in a car accident, or need money for bail or to pay customs fees to get back into the United States from another country. They may also pose as an attorney or law enforcement official contacting you on behalf of a friend or relative. No matter the story, they always want you to send money immediately.
- If you realize you’ve been scammed, what can you do? These scammers ask you to send money through services such as Western Union and MoneyGram because they can pick it up quickly, in cash. They often use phony IDs, so it’s impossible to trace them. Contact the money transfer service immediately to report the scam. If the money hasn’t been picked up yet, you can retrieve it, but if it has, it’s not like a check that you can stop – the money is gone.
- How can you protect your email account from being used by scammers? Use a firewall and anti‐virus and anti‐spyware software. Many computers come with these features already built‐in. They are also easy to find on the Internet. Keep your software updated. Don’t open attachments in emails from strangers, since they can contain programs that enable crooks to get into your computer remotely.
- What else can you do to protect yourself? If you get a call or email from someone claiming to know you and asking for help, check to confirm that it’s legitimate before you send any money. Ask some questions that would be hard for an imposter to answer correctly – the name of the person’s pet, for example, or the date of their mother’s birthday. Contact the person who they claim to be directly. If you can’t reach the person, contact someone else – a friend or relative of the person. Don’t send money unless you’re sure it’s the real person you know.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has received numerous reports of fraudulent e-mails that have the appearance of being sent from the FDIC. While the e-mails exhibit variations in the "Subject" lines, the messages are similar. They all make reference to the suspension of recipient's ability to conduct transfers via ACH and/or wire transfer. The e-mails then encourage recipients to install a software update by clicking on a link provided. They then say that functionality will be restored once the software update is installed. These e-mails and the link provided are fraudulent. Recipients should consider the intent of these e-mails to load malicious software on the recipient's computer, or to collect personal or confidential information. Recipients should not click on the link provided. The FDIC does not send unsolicited e-mails to consumers or business account holders.
American Riviera Bank will NEVER call and ask you to give your personal information over the phone unsolicited. If someone calls and asks you to verify this type of information over the phone – BE WARY! Also be on guard if a caller says they are from the bank's audit or security department. Ask for their name and phone number, then call us directly at 805-965-5942 to verify that the call is legitimate.
Tips to Prevent ID Theft
- Watch for shoulder-surfers. When entering a PIN number or a credit card number in an ATM machine, at a phone booth, or even on a computer at work, be aware of who is nearby and make sure nobody is peering over your shoulder to make a note of the keys you're pressing.
- Calls from the bank's auditing or security department. Know that the bank will NEVER call and ask you to give them your PIN or PASSWORD. If someone calls and asks you to verify this over the phone – BE WARY! Also be on guard if a caller says they are from the bank's audit or security department. Ask for their name and call them back.
- Require photo ID verification. Rather than signing the backs of your credit cards, you can write "See Photo ID". In many cases, store clerks don't even look at the signature block on the credit card, and a thief could just as easily use your credit card to make online or telephone purchases which don't require signature verification, but for those rare cases where they do actually verify the signature, you may get some added security by directing them to also make sure you match the picture on the photo ID.
- Shred everything. One of the ways that would-be identity thieves acquire information is through "dumpster-diving", aka trash-picking. If you are throwing out bills and credit card statements, old credit card or ATM receipts, medical statements or even junk-mail solicitations for credit cards and mortgages, you may be leaving too much information lying about. Buy a personal shredder and shred all papers with personal information on them before disposing of them.
- Destroy digital data. When you sell, trade or otherwise dispose of a computer system, or a hard drive, or even a recordable CD, DVD or backup tape, you need to take extra steps to ensure the data is completely, utterly and irrevocably destroyed. Simply deleting the data or reformatting the hard drive is nowhere near enough. Anyone with a little tech skill can undelete files or recover data from a formatted drive. Use a product like ShredXP to make sure that data on hard drives is completely destroyed. For CD, DVD or tape media you should physically destroy it by breaking or shattering it before disposing of it. There are shredders designed specifically to shred CD / DVD media.
- Be diligent about checking statements. This actually has two benefits. First, if you are diligent about checking your bank and credit statements each month, you will be aware if one of them doesn't arrive and that can alert you that perhaps someone stole it from your mailbox or while it was in transit. (To avoid this and get your statement sooner, sign up for E-Statements (on the home screen). Second, you can ensure that the charges, purchases or other entries on the statement are legitimate and match up with your records so that you can quickly identify and address any suspicious activity.
- Pay your bills at the post office. Never leave your paid bills in your mailbox to be sent out. A thief who raids your mailbox would be able to acquire a slew of critical information in one envelope- your name, address, credit account number, your bank information including the routing number and account number from the bottom of the check, and a copy of your signature from your check for forgery purposes just for starters.
- Limit the information on your checks. It may be convenient to have your drivers license number or social security number imprinted on your personal checks to save some time when you write one, but if it falls into the wrong hands it reveals too much information. In fact, some recommend that you only include your first initial in the name space of your check, such as "T. Bradley" rather than writing out "Tony Bradley" so that if someone did get one of your checks they would not know your full name.
- Analyze your credit report annually. This has always been good advice, but it used to cost money, or you had to first be rejected from receiving credit so that you could get a free copy. Now it is possible to get a free look at your credit report once per year. The big three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) joined forces to provide free credit reports to consumers. The web site, annualcreditreport.com, is currently available for the Western and Mid-Western states, with the Southern and Eastern states being rolled out later this year. You should review it to make sure the information on it is accurate and also make sure that there aren't any accounts on there that you aren't aware of or any other suspicious entries or activity.
- Protect your Social Security number. It is often suggested that you do not carry your Social Security in your wallet with your driver’s license and other identification. For one thing, although they expect it to last your whole life, the Social Security card is issued on very flimsy cardboard that doesn't hold up well to wear and tear. Aside from that though, knowing your full name, address and full Social Security Number, or even the last 4 digits in many cases, can let a thief assume your identity. You should never use your Social Security Number as any part of a username or password that you establish and you should never divulge it to telephone solicitors or in response to spam or phishing scam emails either.
Fraudulent Bill Pay
We take the security of your online accounts very seriously and, with online bill pay fraud occurrences on the rise, we want to let you know that we care and we have you covered! To help protect your bill payment account, we are now monitoring every bill pay transaction that is scheduled through our online bill pay service for potential fraud. This service is free to all of our online bill pay users; and with a nearly 100% effective rate, you can rest assured that your bill pay transactions are safe and secure. What you can do to help put a stop to online fraud? If we detect a payment that does not fit your bill payment pattern, we will contact you. During this call, we will verify your name, address and recent payments. We will not ask for your Social Security Number or account number. The call will come from a highly skilled fraud monitoring specialist. Please feel free to ask the specialist to identify how they are affiliated with your bill pay account. If the transaction is found to be fraudulent, the payment will be stopped and we will take care of the rest.
Keeping your Browsers Updated
The best way to have a secure online experience is to update your browser. Use the most up-to-date browser to keep your financial information safe.
Visit these sites to get the most current versions of browsers available:
Browsers for Microsoft operating systems:
- Microsoft Internet Explorer®: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/default.mspx
- Mozilla Firefox®: http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/
- Google Chrome™: http://www.google.com/chrome
Browsers for Mac operating systems:
- Mozilla Firefox®: http://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/install-firefox-mac
- Safari®: http://www.apple.com/support/mac-apps/safari/
- Google Chrome™: https://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/browser/?hl=en&platform=mac&brand=CHFJ